The diplomas from Harvard and Wharton hung over the sleek, expensive desk where Mark Gillroy kept his most prized possessions, including a picture of his mother. At thirty-two years old he had achieved much in the eyes of others; nothing to himself.
The belief was that education was the answer; all it took was hard work and perseverance to achieve. He knew better; it only took money. New lies had to be created to preserve the world of existing lies on which his life had been founded. The cycle was viscous, never ending.
As he rolled the Dunhill cigarette between his thumb and fingers, staring absent-mindedly out the window with the stunning view of Central Park, he made the decision. He reached for the table in front of him, pausing as his phone rang. It was Steve, his old roomate and broker. The SEC investigation was over, it seemed.
“Sorry, Steve-O. I can’t bear the words,”said Mark quietly, reaching past the phone for the beautiful gun.
He placed the barrel lightly into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
The guns. Mom can’t find the guns; she won’t understand.
Mark sat bolt upright, sending the tray table crashing to the floor. The blaring TV masked the noise, but only slightly. He slid down from the hospital bed, the sudden movement yanking the IV stand sideways, raking it along the bed rails, causing the needle to jab him painfully in the arm.
“Ouch! Son of a… where’s the phone. I gotta call…who? Steve! Yeah, Steve.” Mark grabbed the bar of the IV stand and shuffled across the room to the desk with the phone.
Three rings later, Steve answered, “Hello?”
“Steve, it’s Mark! Thank god; listen I need your help.”
“Mark. Gillroy. Your old roomate.”
“Yeah right, ass.”
“It’s me! I need your help.”
“Stop it,” said Steve, agitated. “It takes a lot of nerve calling me tonight. Mark died a year ago tonight, so just stop it.”
Holding the receiver out in front him, Mark gazed across the quiet, pristine room and caught his palid reflection in the mirror, a gaping hole on the top of his head.
(The following is a sequel written by Dan Balman; I include it here to complete the flow of the story)
The receiver slips through his fingers, bounces off the phone with a ding, rebounds, and hangs, strangled, swinging. Mark’s throat closes. His fingers drift down the chrome IV pole as he turns, his foot reaching for the answers the mirror must have but he is not sure he should ask. Answers which are sure to beg new questions; answers he is unsure he wants to possess.
Hunted, hunting, he slides his feet across the floor, brushing aside plastic ware coated in plastic food. He pauses. The IV line stretches taunt, then goes slack as the stand rocks, hovers, then crashes to the floor. He continues. Searching.
The IV line pulls tight. Mark stops. He looks at his arm, reaches forward, swings up, and tears loose. The tubing whips back violently as tape and needle are ripped from his arm. He doesn’t notice. Had he looked, he would have seen a pin of white light leaking from the puncture wound, but he doesn’t. All he sees is the mirror now.
Mark reaches… stops.
The TV falls silent then speaks.
“Mom? Where are you?” Mark screamed.
“Up here, honey. The TV. I’ve always wanted to be on TV,” she said, smiling. “Although, I would have preferred to be alive, but,” she let the last work hang in the air, rhetorically.
“Where am I? The hospital; a gun. I remember – oh no.”
“Yes, dear, you chickened out and…well. What a mess,” she said, shaking her head as she tapped her finger on the inside of the TV screen. Tap Tap “One shot through your head with your daddies glock.”
Mark tried to stand up, but as he reached for the IV stand his hand passed through it as if it wasn’t there. He stared at his fading hand, then moving it slowly to the top of his head his fingers found the edge of the hole.
“But, why am I here? Why are you on TV?” he said, sticking his finger in the hole and shuddering violently.
“Oh, I died too; a broken heart. I went to heaven, whereas you…well, you’re not. In Heaven, I mean,” she said, with a frown.
“Then where in the Hell am I?” he said, his voice rising.
“Not yet, dear.”
Originally posted on Ficly.com as part of the “Mother’s Day” challenge. Anniversary was selected as a feature story on November 8th, 2011, and the prequel, Stubborn Beauty, was selected as a feature story on November 12th, 2011.
prequel; Stubborn Beauty – http://ficly.com/stories/27400
Anniversary – http://ficly.com/stories/27363
Anniversary II – http://ficly.com/stories/27381 (written by Dan Balman)
The Whole – http://ficly.com/stories/27477